Understanding Learning Styles
Learning styles refer to the characteristic strengths and preferences in the ways people take in and process information. Due to personality and environment factors, individuals have different ways of perceiving and processing information. By understanding your particular learning style, you can better understand the strengths and limitations of that style. Additionally, by utilizing this knowledge, it is possible for people to work in ways that fit their type, which benefits their performance
Different people learn in different ways. People have different learning styles based on personality types. Some people tend to understand information better when it is presented verbally, others when it is presented through pictures.
There are several resources that can help assess an individual’s learning style. Among these are:
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- Kolb Learning Style Inventory
- Felder-Silverman Model Style
- Herrmann Brain Dominant Instrument
- Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was developed by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs based on the teachings of Carl Jung. The MBTI is a self-inventory questionnaire helps identify a person’s personality type, strengths, and preferences. The questionnaire is designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.
The model classifies individuals according to their behavioral preferences on scales derived from Jung’s theory of psychological types. The MBTI system uses a four-scale structure for identifying and categorizing individuals, and each of the four scales represents two opposing preferences. Based on the answers to the questions, people are identified as having one of 16 personality types.
The ultimate goal of the MBTI is to allow people to explore and understand their own personalities including his or her strengths, weaknesses, and general preferences. It can also help determine career preferences that would best match his or her personality.
According to MBTI model, there are four areas of personality that affect learning. The model categorizes results based upon four dimensions:
|Area of Personality||How A Person|
|Extraversion vs. Introversion||directs their energy|
|Sensing vs. Intuition||processed information|
|Thinking vs. Feeling||makes decisions|
|Judging vs. Perceiving||organization preferences|
Learners may be:
|Extraverts (E)||try things out, focus on the outer world of people|
|Introverts (I)||think things through, focus on the inner world of ideas|
|Sensors (S)||practical, detail-oriented, focus on facts and procedures|
|Intuitors (N)||imaginative, concept-oriented, focus on meanings and possibilities|
|Thinkers (T)||skeptical, tend to make decisions based on logic and rules|
|Feelers (F)||appreciative, tend to make decisions based on personal and humanistic considerations|
|Judgers (J)||set and follow agendas, seek closure even with incomplete data|
|Perceivers (P)||adapt to changing circumstances, resist closure to obtain more data|
The MBTI type preferences can be combined to form 16 different learning style types. For example, one person may be an ISTJ (introvert, sensor, thinker, judger) and another may be an ENFP (extravert, intuitor, feeler, perceiver).
The 16 preferences:
Kolb Learning Style Inventory
Kolb’s Learning Style Model uses four areas to determine an individual’s learning style.
In Kolb’s model, learners perceive and process information in a continuum across two dimensions, based on how people perceive information (how they take information in) and process information (how they internalize information). In this model, learners perceive and process information in a continuum from concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation.
This model classifies learners as having a preference for;
1) concrete experience or abstract conceptualization, and
2) active experimentation or reflective observation.
|concrete vs. abstract||how people perceive information (how they take information in)|
|active vs. reflective||how people process information (how they internalize information)|
Individuals tend to develop strengths in one experience-grasping approach and one experience-transforming approach. The resulting learning styles are combinations of the individual’s preferred approaches. Each different area is based on how a student prefers to learn.
Kolb believes people come to prefer one style more than the others. The four learning styles or preferences are:
|Concrete experience||being involved in a new experience|
|Reflective observation||watching others or developing observations about one’s own experience|
|Abstract conceptualization||creating theories to explain observations|
|Active experimentation||using theories to solve problems and make decisions|
A typical presentation of Kolb’s two continuums is that the east-west axis is called the Processing Continuum (how we approach a task), and the north-south axis is called the Perception Continuum (our emotional response, or how we think or feel about it).
These learning styles are the combination of two lines of axis (continuums) each formed between what Kolb calls ‘dialectally related modes’ of ‘grasping experience’ (doing or watching), and ‘transforming experience’ (feeling or thinking):
These learning styles are as follows:
|Convergers(abstract, active)||characterized by abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. They are good at making practical applications of ideas and using deductive reasoning to solve problems|
|Divergers(concrete, reflective)||tend toward concrete experience and reflective observation. They are imaginative and are good at coming up with ideas and seeing things from different perspectives|
|Assimilators(abstract, reflective)||characterized by abstract conceptualization and reflective observation. They are capable of creating theoretical models by means of inductive reasoning|
|Accommodators(concrete, active)||use concrete experience and active experimentation. They are good at actively engaging with the world and actually doing things instead of merely reading about and studying them|
Felder-Silverman Learning Style Model
This model is very similar to the Kolb Model. There are four areas of personality that contribute to learning in this model. They are active or reflective, sensing or intuitive, visual or verbal, and sequential or global. A combination of these styles makes up the individuals learning preferences.
This model classifies learners as:
- sensing learners (concrete, practical, oriented toward facts and procedures) or intuitive learners (conceptual, innovative, oriented toward theories and meanings),
- visual learners (prefer visual representations of presented material–pictures, diagrams, flow charts) or verbal learners (prefer written and spoken explanations),
- inductive learners (prefer presentations that proceed from the specific to the general) or deductive learners (prefer presentations that go from the general to the specific);
- active learners (learn by trying things out, working with others) or reflective learners (learn by thinking things through, working alone);
- Sequential learners (linear, orderly, learn in small incremental steps) or global learners (holistic, systems thinkers, learn in large leaps).
Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI)
The Herrmann Brain Dominant Instrument is a learning style based on the idea that individuals have a preference for using one hemisphere of the brain over the other hemisphere. This method classifies people in terms of their relative preferences for thinking in four different modes based on the task-specialized functioning of the physical brain.
Herrmann developed the four-quadrant model of cognitive preferences and a questionnaire called the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). The inspiration for this model came from dividing the brain into as four different systems with four preferred styles:
A: Left cerebral hemisphere – analytical
B: Left limbic system – sequential
C: Right limbic system – interpersonal
D: Right cerebral hemisphere – imaginative
The left hemisphere of the brain is rational, analytical, and verbal, while the right hemisphere is holistic and intuitive, responsive to visual imagery. The two halves of the brain can be further divided into a front and back half, making four sections in the brain. Individuals are dominant in one of these four areas, which is connected to their personality type.
The HBDI identifies four thinking styles. Individual preferences among these thinking styles influence how we think, learn and communicate.
The four modes or quadrants in this classification scheme are;
- Quadrant A (left brain, cerebral): Logical, analytical, quantitative, factual, critical
- Quadrant B (left brain, limbic): Sequential, organized, planned, detailed, structured
- Quadrant C (right brain, limbic): Emotional, interpersonal, sensory, kinesthetic, symbolic
- Quadrant D (right brain, cerebral): Visual, holistic, imaginative, innovative
Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences
Howard Gardner’s theory suggests that our school systems have been teaching two primary kinds of intelligences and neglecting other equally important intelligences. He has proposed that there are at least eight kinds of intelligences and when this theory is applied in the educational setting, there is an increase in successful student achievement.
Gardner’s multiple intelligences, understanding the various areas where individuals can demonstrate particular strengths and weaknesses is a first step in understanding self as learner. Gardner proposed that there are several areas in which people can excel, with no one area receiving any more emphasis or weight than the other areas. These areas of multiple intelligences include: interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, naturalist, bodily kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, verbal-linguistic and visual-spatial. Traditional formal education emphasizes the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences over the other areas of intellect. The challenge for the learner and the facilitator is to integrate curricula that include equal emphasis on all areas of intelligence so equal learning opportunities are provided to all learners.
This simple grid diagram illustrates Howard Gardner’s model of the seven Multiple Intelligences at a glance.
|Intelligence type||Capability and perception|
|Linguistic||words and language|
|Logical-Mathematical||logic and numbers|
|Musical||music, sound, rhythm|
|Bodily-Kinesthetic||body movement control|
|Spatial-Visual||images and space|
|Interpersonal||other people’s feelings|
A person learning style cannot easily be changed. However, learning strategies can be employed to enhance learning in various situations. Learning strategies are dynamic and adaptable to different circumstances and conditions. It is not enough to develop an awareness of one’s learning style. This awareness must be translated into the development of learning strategies. Learners should develop a repertoire of strategies that favor their preferred learning style as well as strategies that help them deal with situations where the preferred learning style is not the method of delivery.